Google algorithm change: what 'mobilegeddon' means for web sites

Google has announced that it is using a new algorithm to find and read house numbers in Street View

The 'mobilegeddon' begins today according to social media, as Google changes the way it handles mobile websites in its searches.

The technology giant is changing how it displays and ranks search results on mobile devices - having announced rules changes in February that come into force today. These rules, delivered via a new algorithm, revolve around the growing trend of devices like smartphones and tablets being used to carry out more and more of our surfing. Google wants to promote mobile sites more, penalising those who aren't 'mobile-friendly'.

The result is that many sites are scrambling to reconfigure and ensure they are not caught out by the change, and avoid 'mobilegeddon'.

1. What is Google changing about mobile searches?

The changes, which the company first announced back in February, are based on the need for websites to become mobile optimised. This means pages, text and images automatically resizing and reshaping for devices like smartphones and tablets that have smaller and different sized screens. Google is now analysing characteristics like text size and the space between links in order to establish if a website is mobile-friendly. If the new algorithm deems the site not mobile-friendly, it's ranking in Google searches done from mobile devices will suffer.

2. Why is Google doing this?

According to research, for the first time this year UK adults will spend more time on mobile devices than desktops. Google says the rule changes is them acknowledging this trend.

"When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results," said a Google spokesman.

"No matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps. As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns."

3. Why is this such an issue for websites?

The currency of websites and online business is traffic. Google remains the world's largest search engine - indeed it handles more than 90% of all searches in Europe - so slipping down the rankings because your company website is not to Google's liking could significantly hit web traffic to a site.

4.How do webmasters know if their site meets Google's criteria?

The search engine has created a special test where users can enter a web address for Google's new algorithm to analyse the site. if it fails, a list of issues appears detailing why. Webmasters can then see which changes they need to make in order to get the seal of approval.

5. Why are so many sites still being caught out by the changes?

Despite first being announced over a month ago, as recently as Monday some major websites in the UK were still not fully meeting Google's criteria. Mobile marketing firm Somo, who compiled a report on the changes, said this is because while many had a separate app or mobile site, and therefore believed they were up to code, their main website did not automatically redirect to them when visited on mobile. To Google, this constitutes a fail. The BBC was one such example of this, but has since added the redirect feature to pass the Google test.

6. Will there be a noticeable difference to how Google looks?

The overall look of Google will not change, and while users may spot a reshuffle in what sort of results appear on the first page of searches in the short term, this is unlikely to be a long term issue as sites move up to scratch with the new algorithm's criteria.